Tell me – what’s some of the terminology you want to see in the bumbling biochemist dictionary? The bumbling biochemist is on a mission to make a glossary of biochemistry-related jargon that many people gloss over. You know what I’m talking about – those word like “residue” and “assay” that people use as if you should know what they are but you don’t & you feel stupid asking (though you shouldn’t)? 

So I don’t leave you hanging, “residue” is just what you call amino acids (protein letters) when they’ve joined together) & “assay” is basically just an experiment where you’re measuring something.

Those are just 2 of the words I plan to include in the to-be-periodically-updated glossary I’m planning to make for my blog ( 

I’m all about removing barriers to learning and one of those barriers is jargon. Sometimes jargon’s useful. But only if you’re “in the know” and that can make biochemistry seem like it’s some exclusive club. And I really don’t want it to be that way.

I *can’t* say I never use jargon. In fact, I think it’s important to introduce you to it so you know it so you know it and can better comprehend confusing conversations. What I *can* say is that I try my best to explain terminology I use in non-jargon terms the first time I use it. 

But I run into a couple problems…

One problem is that my posts can get really long and cluttered and if you insert a bunch of definitions into the “molecular story” you lose track of the story. I’m hoping having a de-jargonnized glossary to point to for more info will help here. 

But that leads to the…

Second problem – I’ve been studying biochemistry so long that I can forget what words are jargon because they’ve become so “normal conversational” to me (yes, I have some geeky conversations…). This can happen with professors too I think, because I remember in undergrad my profs would use terms like residue as if it was something that was clear to everyone when I couldn’t get the image of a dirty pan out of my head when that word was said!

I don’t want this to happen to other people (especially not when I’m trying to teach!) So, I need your help – what biochemistry words do you hear thrown about of which you have many a doubt? (and don’t be embarrassed to say! speaking of which, make sure you ask if you don’t know something because having a solid foundation is sooooo important and it’s way easier to ask early than to ask later!)

Final plea – if you learn all this jargon, please don’t go throwing it around with abandon now that you’re “in the club”. Instead, let’s all work to help make and keep the biochemistry club doors open! Using jargon to “sound smart” only “sounds” smart – in fact, the hardest thing to do can be to explain complex things in simple terms. Which is part of why I love doing this work because it challenges me and helps me learn. 

This post is part of my weekly “broadcasts from the bench” for The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Be sure to follow @the_IUBMB if you’re interested in biochemistry! They’re a really great international organization for biochemistry.⠀

more on topics mentioned (& others) #365DaysOfScience All (with topics listed) 👉⠀

2 Thoughts on “A bumbling biochemist call for jargon to de-jargon-ize!”

  • Happy to hear the points! I am a newer in the protein-structural field and read your posts almost everyday and i found the memebers in our lab always say some “biochemistry-related jargons” in the daily conversition which makes me confused, so it’s very helpful for me to learn some jargons from you! thanks soooo much.—— A lively research assistant

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